How Stress Makes You Fat & 5 Ways to Conquer Your Stressy Self!

First off, let me say, I have never considered myself to be a very stressy individual.  I think most of us believe we handle difficult situations with finesse and have no more stress than the next person.  Unfortunately, even when we think we have it all together, stress can still be impacting our health.  Recently, I have watched two clients experience severe nausea and stomach pain, go to the doctor to have endless tests ran, only to find out that stress was the culprit.  This got me thinking about my own stress levels.  I recalled my hair stylist asking me if I was going through a stressful time in life because I had a noticeable amount of new hair growth, which indicates abnormal amounts of breakage.  She whispered this question to me as if I should feel embarrassed, but I blew the idea off, saying that I have always had lots of baby hairs in that area.  Then I remembered all of the times I had used the "stress test" app on my phone and the arrow had pointed directly to the portion of red labeled "high stress."  I figured the app wasn't all that accurate, even after seeing friends and family use the same app on MY phone and have completely different results.  Determined that I was "normal," I took Dr. Phil's stress test.  The results?  "High Stress."  Okay, okay, if Dr. Phil says so I guess it IS true.  So I began researching healthy ways to manage stress.  We'll get to that in a minute.  First, let's look at how stress affects your waist line.

How Stress Makes You Fat:

-Raises your blood sugar
-Suppresses your HPA-axis, which creates a hormonal imbalance
-Increases the rate at which you store fat (Stress is known for increasing belly fat, in particular)
-Reduces your DHEA, testosterone and growth hormone
-Makes your cells less sensitive to insulin

All of these factors make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight, and they make it SUPER difficult to lose weight.  So what's the solution?  Quitting your job and moving to India to become a yogi?  Perhaps, but first, try my 5 tips for conquering your stressy self.  

5 Ways to Conquer Stress

1) Exercise
You may have guessed that exercise is my favorite stress buster!  Exercise releases endorphins almost immediately and endorphins are proven to elevate your mood and give you a natural "high."  For maximum stress relief, try a rhythmic exercise like walking, running, cycling, or yoga.  The rhythmic motions will help relax your mind and your body.  

2) Breathe
When our brains detect stress we naturally start taking quick, shallow breaths and our bodies enter fight or flight mode.  One of the best ways to reverse this action is to purposefully slow down your breathing.  This will send a message to your brain to relax.  Next time you're feeling stressed, try this simple breathing exercise: Inhale for a count of 6, exhale for a count of 6.  Bonus points if you breathe only through your nose.   

3) Take 30 minutes to do what you love...EVERY DAY
Everyone deserves and needs 30 minutes of uninterrupted happy on a daily basis.  Whether you love painting or zoning out with the real housewives of beverly hills and a glass of wine, schedule 30 minutes to do just that.  You'll look forward to your "me time" and that half hour will help you re-charge and wind down.  

4) Don't Be a Yes Man (or a yes woman)
Sometimes, we need to learn to say no, because trying to be all things to all people is a recipe for stress.  Everyone has obligations in life, and certain obligations are unavoidable, like funerals and paying your taxes.  However, you shouldn't feel obligated to be a bridesmaid in 5 of your sorority sisters' weddings that span the course of two months nor should you feel obligated to bake cookies for every PTA meeting.  These are things you can say NO to when you need time to take care of yourself.  

5) Kick Processed Food to the Curb
Processed food is toxin-loaded and sugar-jacked.  Consuming these chemically constituted foods spikes our blood sugar levels, which puts our bodies under undue stress.  When our blood sugar levels are uneven, our moods become uneven as well.  Swap processed cake, cookies and crackers for fresh fruits, veggies and lean protein.  Your body will thank you, and your stress will diminish.  

Stress is unavoidable.  Dr. James Dobson said "There are very few certainties that touch us all in this mortal experience, but one of the absolutes is that we will experience hardship and stress at some point."  So let's learn to manage our stress in healthy ways!  Comment below with your best de-stressing tips! 

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